The English football’s top flight has seen its fair share of phenomenal Irish talents. These include players such as Liverpool’s Ray Houghton, John Aldridge, and Ronnie Whelan; Manchester United’s Roy Keane, Denis Irwin, Paul McGrath, and John O’Shea; Tottenham’s Robbie Keane and Stephen Carr; Chelsea’s Damien Duff; Newcastle’s goalie Shay Given; Sunderland’s Niall Quinn, and many others.
But what about the contemporary Irish talent in the Premier League? Who are some of the best Irish players in the Premier League today, and how do they stack up to the legends of the past?
Who Are the Best Irish Football Players in the Premier League Today?
Comparing modern Irish footballers to Ireland’s Golden Generation of 1986-1995 or the subsequent high-flying teams of 1995-2002 can feel a bit unfair. After all, Irish football has had countless great players over the years. Unfortunately for fans of modern Irish football, today’s generation doesn’t seem to be performing as expected, neither at the international level nor in England’s Premier League.
In fact, the 2022-2023 season was the scene of a rather negative record for Irish players – only 13 Irishmen played for England’s 20 PL teams. This is the lowest number of Irish players in England’s top division to date. Things start to look even bleaker when you notice that more than half of them (seven out of thirteen) were habitual benchwarmers and played fewer than five games each throughout the whole 2023-2024 season.
So, fans looking for PL Irishmen to root for or bet on didn’t have much fun spectating or betting during the 2022-2023 season. Those who switched from sports betting to some of the latest and greatest digital casinos at least found more thrill and fewer heartaches during the last PL season.
What does this mean for the current 2023-2024 season? Hopefully, things won’t be quite as grim this year, as there is some noteworthy talent among Ireland’s Premier League footballers. Even though Irish legend and Everton captain Séamus Coleman is still sidelined with a knee injury since last May, there have already been four Irish footballers to play in all ten out of ten games this season, and another three have played in either five or six out of ten. This alone already beats last year’s “record” of just six Irish footballers with more than five games throughout the whole season.
So, which among these players would we single out during the 2023-2024 Premier League season, which ones should you root for, and which ones might be worth betting on? Obviously, Séamus Coleman will make any such list once he starts playing again, but while he’s sidelined, we’d look at the following players:
1. Nathan Collins
Brentford has been having a pretty stable start to the 2023-2024 campaign and just came out of an impressive away derby 2-0 win against Chelsea. Irish centre-back Nathan Collins is playing a pretty pivotal role in Brentford’s season, as he’s played in all ten games so far.
In those games, Collins has recorded three clean sheets, won 50 out of 72 duels, made 39 clearances, 16 interceptions, and 56 recoveries, and had an average of 56,3 passes per match. Though he also conceded 10 goals, he hasn’t scored any goals (one assist though), but that’s not out of the ordinary for a centre-back. Overall, Nathan Collins is proving to be a crucial piece of the Brentford puzzle this season.
He’s a newcomer to the club too, as he came from Wolverhampton over the summer for €27 million – a record-breaking sum for both Brentford and for an Irish player in the Premier League. Collins was Ireland’s Player of the Year at the 33rd FAI International Awards too.
2. Evan Ferguson
The Seagulls are truly flying this season, and Irish forward Evan Ferguson has been crucial for that success. The youngster had a promising season last year when he made 19 appearances and scored six goals – a good showing for the then-18-year-old.
This year will likely be even better for Ferguson, however, as he’s played in all ten out of ten games for Brighton so far and scored five goals. Those five came from 18 shots, 13 of which were on target, for a shooting accuracy of 72%.
Ferguson also hit the woodwork twice, been caught offside only four times, and had four tackles with zero yellow or red cards. Overall, when looking not just at the rough stats at the PL’s Stats Centre but at the player’s age and potential, Ferguson is probably the most exciting Irish footballer to follow in the Premier League this season.
3. Matt Doherty
Matt Doherty has made only five appearances out of ten games for Wolverhampton Wanderers this season, and four of them were as a substitute. This doesn’t necessarily mean the 31-year-old defender shouldn’t be on our radar, however, as the season is still young and Wolves are rotating their nine defenders quite a bit. Plus, Doherty has more than proven his qualities over the past few years at both Tottenham and Wolverhampton.
In fact, this is Doherty’s second stint at Wolves, as he came back from Tottenham over the summer. His time in London may not have been up to his or our expectations, but he used to shine for Wolves in the 2018-2020 period and he’ll be looking to go back to that form. So far this season, Doherty has made 10 clearances, 13 recoveries, 97 passes with no yellow or red cards, and won 20 duels.
Other noteworthy Irish footballers getting regular playtime in the Premier League this year include Josh Cullen, John Egan, Dara O’Shea, and Chiedozie Ogbene. Unfortunately, they play for the three clubs at the bottom of the table as of writing this article – Luton Town, Burnley, and Sheffield United. So, evaluating their skills and capabilities can be challenging since football is a team sport. Hopefully, the clubs, or at least the players themselves, will remain in the Premier League next season so we can finally start seeing more Irish representation in England’s top football division.